tv NBC Nightly News NBC January 17, 2013 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
immediate reaction to the french attacks, kidnappers grabbed some foreign workers at a bp oil facility in the sahara desert in nearby algeria. we know there were american hostages along with brits and others. we know there was a mission launched today to free them and kill their captors. we don't truly know tonight about casualties or how many americans might have made it out of there alive. we begin with nbc's stephanie gosk on what we do know. >> reporter: using tanks and helicopters, the algerian military launched an operation on their own, to retake the remote gas field from the militants and free the hostages. including at least three americans. algeria says it's over, but details are few, and casualty reports vary widely from a few dead to dozens. u.s. officials are saying little about the operation or the american hostages. >> because of the fluidity and the fact that there is a lot of planning going on, i cannot give
you any further details at this time. >> reporter: the militants attacked the sprawling gas facility in the remote sahara wednesday morning, taking dozens of foreign and algerian hostages. confirming algeria's operation to retake the facility, british prime minister david cameron did not sound hopeful. >> and i think we have to prepare ourselves for the possibility of bad news ahead. >> reporter: several hostages did manage to escape the militants. one called his family in ireland. >> it's like winning the lottery. getting him home again. i just feel so sorry for everybody else that's still there. >> reporter: the group claiming responsibility calls itself the signatories of blood brigade, founded by a former afghan jihadist, mokhtar belmokhtar. his group has made tens of millions of dollars, kidnapping westerners and trading them for large ransoms. >> what does that say about their capabilities? >> they're very heavily armed, affiliates all over the place, and supporters in europe and other francophone countries.
if that isn't a mix we should be concerned about, i don't know what is. >> reporter: a spokesman called the attack retribution for the conflict in the mali. french military forces have intervened to stop militants from taking over mali and making it a terrorist base. rohit kachroo is the only american network correspondent reporting from mali. >> people here have been flying the french flag to celebrate the military intervention. overwhelmingly, they want the islamists gone, and they welcome the operation to save them from life under an oppressive regime. >> reporter: tonight, france continues to press ahead in mali, bringing in more troops. the hostage drama in algeria is a reminder that islamic extremism knows no borders. stephanie gosk, nbc news, new york. again, we know americans were among the hostages. the question is, was the u.s. military involved in the mission to free them and kill their captors. jim miklashevski covers the pentagon. he's with us from there tonight. jim, good evening.
>> reporter: brian, from the very beginning, the u.s. offered the algerians overhead surveillance, gathered by u.s. satellites. today one unarmed u.s. military drone arrived in algeria to fly surveillance over the hostage site, but it was too late. the algerians had already begun their attack. the u.s. also offered algeria american combat forces, a rescue hostage team, but the algerians rejected the offer. they wanted to do this themselves. so in the end, the u.s. military had no direct role in this operation. tonight, administration officials say algeria did not inform the u.s. in advance of today's attack to attempt to rescue those hostages. but in the end it probably wouldn't have mattered. according to one defense official, the algerians were in total control. brian. >> jim miklashevski at the pentagon. where we'll keep an eye on it. another big story today, big progress to report tonight in this country's war on cancer, specifically a dramatic drop in
cancer death rates over the last 20 years. but the news from the american cancer society is not all good. it comes with a big warning about the next big risk. here with that our chief science correspondent, robert bazell. >> reporter: the report out today illustrates huge strides in the fight against cancer which kills one in four americans. the death rate down more than 20% in the last two decades is attributed to improved survival from the biggest killers, lung and colon cancer, for both men and women. breast cancer in women and prostate cancer. >> the public should be ecstatic we are seeing these kind of reductions. but they need to realize the battle hasn't been won. >> reporter: experts emphasize the kind of death rate is not due to the expensive new drugs we hear about. instead they point to people smoking less and early detection, especially for breast and colon cancer. still, this year, an estimated 1.6 million americans will be diagnosed with cancer, and more than 580,000 will die from it.
according to the report, the death rate for melanoma, often caused by sun exposure, is rising. and there is major concern about obesity, which affects many cancers, including liver, breast and colorectal cancer. >> over the next 10 to 15 years, it's indeed possible that the obesity epidemic will become the leading cause of cancer, surpassing tobacco abuse. >> reporter: and that could impact the gains we are seeing now. robert bazell, nbc news, new york. now to the bizarre story that broke nationwide last night involving sports and truth and lies and the internet age. at the center of this is a notre dame football player named manti te'o, a star linebacker, runner up for the heisman and a big part of his dramatic back story was the death of his girlfriend of leukemia until this report surfaced that there was no girlfriend. she was an internet invention. te'o says he's the victim of a hoax. notre dame is standing behind him. there are still a whole lot of questions here.
nbc's john yang is with us from south bend, indiana tonight. john, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. today manti te'o was out of sight, he's at a florida sports center, preparing for what he hopes is an nfl career. that as the story that is the centerpiece of his fairy tale final college year has collapsed around him. >> manti te'o! >> reporter: manti te'o was a college football hero, not just to the home crowd here at notre dame, but to fans across the country. hailed on the cover of "sports illustrated" as a star player who had triumphed over personal tragedy. in a single september day, he said, he lost both his grandmother and his girlfriend, recently diagnosed with leukemia. in an interview posted in november on notre dame's youtube channel, he talked about the pain. >> when i lost my girlfriend and my grandma, that was possibly the hardest time of my life. >> reporter: the legend grew as te'o led notre dame over
michigan, the day he says his girlfriend was buried. now it turns out his girlfriend never existed. as the website deadspin first reported, her identity was created in an elaborate deception. >> manti is the victim of that hoax. and he will carry that with him for a while. >> reporter: in a written statement, te'o said he communicated with the woman online and by phone. to realize that i was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was and is painful and humiliating. while he told others he had discovered the deception on december 6th, he still talked about his ill-fated girlfriend at the heisman trophy ceremony two days later. >> i'll never forget the time i found out my girlfriend passed away. >> reporter: and he didn't tell notre dame officials until december 26th, 20 days afterward. the school hired private investigators and got the final report detailing the hoax on january 4th, three days before losing the national championship game to alabama.
>> it's not the kind of publicity that notre dame is looking for. not the kind of publicity that te'o was looking for. and so it's understandable that they kept a lid on this as long as they possibly could. >> reporter: on campus today, students' admiration hasn't dimmed. >> it's not just like, oh, yeah, he's like a football player. it's like he's a fantastic person. >> he just kind of represents what this campus is all about. >> reporter: even te'o's admirers here on campus say they would like to hear him tell a more detailed version of his side of the story as they try to find the big, unanswered question in this hoax. why. brian? >> john yang, headquarters of the fighting irish in south bend tonight, thanks. hours before his big confessional interview with oprah, set to air tonight, the international olympic committee has asked lance armstrong to send back the bronze medal he won at the 2000 olympic games in sydney. he was stripped of his seven tour de france championships last year by the u.s. anti-doping agency.
the head of the anti doping body said today armstrong should have already returned the olympic medal without having to be asked. it's been nearly six months now since a gunman opened fire in the packed movie theater in aurora, colorado, killing 12 people, wounding 58 hours. tonight the theater is reopening for the first time. private ceremony for victims and first responders. it's not without controversy. it's being boycotted by some of the victims' families who say it's insensitive to reopen the theater at all. and following the aurora massacre and the mass shooting in newtown, connecticut, the president is now trying to build public support for his sweeping plan to curb gun violence. and he will need it. our political director and chief white house correspondent, chuck todd, has our brand new polling numbers about how americans are feeling about gun laws. >> reporter: a day after the president unveiled his recommendations to curb gun violence -- >> this is our first task as a society. keeping our children safe.
>> reporter: the new nbc news "wall street journal" poll shows 56% of americans do want stricter gun laws. 7% say they're too strict now. and 35% want no changes. 20 years ago, the last time real changes were debated, a full two-thirds of americans wanted stricter gun laws. this time, the public appears to be looking at the complex reasons behind the spade of mass shootings. a large majority said they believed lack of parental involvement with their children, inadequate mental health care and violent video games all contributed more to the gruesome shootings of the past two years than access to guns. and while the president talked a lot about mental health issues yesterday -- >> we will make sure mental health professionals know their options for reporting threats of violence. >> reporter: he never once mentioned parental involvement. [ gunshot ] >> reporter: so really understand the complexities of the gun debate in america, look who owns guns. our polls show that 41% of all households have a gun. in rural america, 61%. in urban homes, 29%. and our poll shows a dramatic political divide.
55% of republicans say they have guns. 27% of democrats do. and while the national rifle association has been a lightning rod, 41% in our poll said they have a positive view of the organization. 34% a negative one. among gun owners, the nra's positive rating is 62%. among nongun owners, 25%. >> we're powerful to the extent that we are because there are millions and millions of americans who truly care about second amendment issues. >> reporter: of course, this was part of an extensive look we did in this poll on the president, where he stands going into the second term, as well as all of washington. and it won't surprise you, brian, to find out if it's possible, americans have grown more pessimistic about its leaders here in d.c., and worse, they think washington is hurting the economy. the whole poll is on our website right now. nbcnews.com. >> boy, those numbers didn't have much far further to go. chuck todd in our d.c. newsroom tonight. thanks for all of it.
weather is making news tonight. a very large winter storm system has left quite a bit of snow on the ground from the deep south, and we're talking about mississippi, alabama, rare snow on the ground there, to the mid atlantic tonight. systems moving fast, but the snowfall where it's falling is heavy and intense. there is one storm-related death to report. thousands are without power. you're looking at a live picture of the scene outside richmond right now. they could get up to 6 inches there tonight with a rain/snow mix, hazardous travel expected tonight, right up through the carolinas. it will all move out to sea by tomorrow. it will knick the jersey shore and at least long island on its way out. still ahead as our broadcast continues, the mystery coming ashore. the tsunami trash that floated halfway around the world. tonight, what strange life forms came along for the ride to the u.s. and later, remembering the woman behind dear abby and all that good advice over the years.
we are faking you to the washington state coastline and to say that this pristine spot is under attack by alien life forms is not much of an exaggeration. a huge piece of at the brie from the tsunami in japan has made its way across the pacific, carrying with it some potentially invasive species never before seen in this part of the world. and now they're scrambling before it becomes a part of our world. our report tonight from nbc's miguel almaguer. >> reporter: washington state's olympic national park, 73 miles of pristine coastline, is protected land, now under attack. this 66-foot dock washed ashore in december. along for the ride, living organisms, some invasive species. >> this is the first time we ever saw these come across the ocean. >> reporter: researcher john chatman and his strike team are among the first scientists to reach the remote dock, bringing
samples to the lab. >> it was very much like seeing something from outer space. >> reporter: foreign plants and animals found here could invade, even kill off, native species. >> we know that when species come into new habitats, they often cause tremendous amounts of damage. >> reporter: in oregon, the invasive northern pacific sea star was identified in tsunami debris that washed ashore in june. a bottom feeder with a voracious appetite. >> we have nearly 150 species on these japanese tsunami debris combined. and we can't predict which ones might have a negative impact. but they could be quite catastrophic. >> reporter: there's a long history of foreign species reeking havoc. the san francisco bay is the most invaded estuary anywhere in the country. the green crab decimated fisheries and altered the local environment here. >> reporter: in the mississippi river, asian carp wipe out native fish.
in the great lakes, zebra mussels are the problem. today, the challenge, contain invasive species before they get out of control. >> this problem is extremely serious and can cause environmental harm, economic harm, and harm even to human health. we're talking about over $100 billion worth of damage to the u.s. economy every year. >> reporter: for now, it's unclear what, if any damage, will occur in the pacific northwest. but tonight the experts don't like what they see. miguel almaguer, nbc news, san francisco. when we come back, a big birthday for the first lady, though not the big one. and she celebrates with a new look. ♪
chances are, you're not made of money, so don't overpay for motorcycle insurance. geico, see how much you could save. american airlines known by that instantly recognizable aa logo for so many years is tonight a little less recognizable because they have changed their look. in a big rollout campaign with accompanying gauzy video, they debuted their new logo and their
new paint scheme on their planes. opinions are a little mixed. some people compared it to the new coke rollout of a few years back. some said it was a little greyhound bus-y. american has been in talks about a mega merger of usair as of late. millions know of the foot long jinglel on the subway commercials, except for the photo rick o'sheaing on the web this week, they show an 11-inch foot long. subway scrambled to say bread length may vary at some of its 38,000 locations. they plan to reinforce their policy. it's their staple. they have offered a foot-long sub since the very first subway opened its doors back in 1965. first lady michelle obama turned 49 today. but the big news came as the first lady's office inaugurated a twitter account and sent out this picture showing the first lady's new bangs. which "vanity fair's" website
instantly praised, calling them featherly, tracing their lineage in hair terms to brigitte bardot. and as for her husband, how about this on the eve of your second inaugural? an interactive tool thanks to the folks at the "washington post" website to show how much you've aged in four years in office. of course, we've all aged in four years. some have more on their plates than others. when we come back, remembering the woman who helped so many others with all those memorable words of wisdom.
finally tonight, we remember the woman who along with her sister, basically invented the business of giving advice. pauline phillips died today at the age of 94. but you probably know her better by the words thousands of people wrote to her over the years, addressed "dear abby." we get a look back at her story tonight from nbc's rehema ellis. >> reporter: pauline phillips was a house wife who got started almost 60 years ago writing for the "san francisco chronicle" as "dear abby." phillips redefined advice columns with snappy responses about everything from health, marriage and children.
when kay asked, are birth control pills deductible, she replied, "dear kay, only if they don't work." "dear abby" became a trusted household name, read by tens of millions in hundreds of newspapers worldwide. >> i get about 300 letters a day that sound just like this one. dear abby, i'm a girl of 14 and i like a boy of 15. >> reporter: even presidents took note of her popularity. >> abby, thank you. >> thank you, mr. president. >> she wasn't a doctor, physician. she was just a woman from iowa who had great, good common sense. >> reporter: phillips was also on the radio for 12 years, an author to six books. famous for one-liners. "dear abby, between you and me, i think the people who write to you are either morons or they're just plain stupid." signed henry. she replied, "dear henry, which are you?" some confused her with her twin sister, ann landers, also an advice columnist.
both helped raise awareness about social issues. in 2000, phillips started to share the column with her daughter. soon after, it was revealed phillips had alzheimer's. today, her daughter jeannie who took over the column said my mother leaves very high heels to fill with a legacy of compassion. asked years ago, has it been a lot of work? not really, phillips said, it's only work if you would rather be doing something else. rehema ellis, nbc news, new york. and that's our broadcast on our thurig.lusive rview with the most famous scientologist to ever leave the church, and a book that investigates life inside the controversial religion. that's our all-new "rock center," tonight at 10:00, 9:00 central. i'm brian williams. we sure hope to have you back here tomorrow evening. good night.